Sovereign King Church is Particularized in Evangel Presbytery

Sovereign King Church began in 2016 as a church plant meeting in the basement of a home in Southern Indiana. It was around that time that I had met a few men and their families doing evangelism work at the abortion mill in Louisville, Kentucky. With a mutual love for Christ, reformed theology, preaching the gospel in the open air, and speaking up for the preborn, we saw a need for a reformed church in Southern Indiana. The church initially started with an affiliation with another church in the area, but two problems became apparent. First, there was not much of an appetite for reformed preaching with application to the real sins of the people in the congregation. Second, we realized that the church did not have a good way of dealing with conflict among their elders. We had a sense that churches should be interconnected and have accountability outside of the local congregation, and so we began to consider a presbyterian style of government. We came to the conviction that presbyterianism provides protection for both the sheep and the shepherds of those sheep.

Having already established relationships with some of the men who would eventually make up Evangel Presbytery, we were able to seek shelter and care with accountability as we planted Sovereign King Church. I was accepted as an ordained church planter by Evangel Presbytery in 2019 when it was founded. With the help of a provisional elder board made up of pastors and elders from the Presbytery, the work of planting continued.

The Lord has been kind to us in many ways, small and large. One sweet story is about how we found a new location after outgrowing the basement where we were meeting:

Every year at Christmas, the church goes caroling throughout the nearby neighborhoods. One evening we knocked on the door of a woman whose entire family was sick and feeling pretty miserable. We sang Joy to the World when she opened the door, and tears filled her eyes as she filmed us using her phone. After we left, she shared the video on Facebook saying that she had been very discouraged until we had come. A local hairdresser saw the video on Facebook and recognized one of the women of our church. The next time she went to have her hair done, she and the hairdresser talked about the video, the gospel, and about how the church had outgrown the basement. The hairdresser knew just the right place for our church and put in a good word for us. We were meeting there soon after. There are many of these little stories of God’s provision and blessing on our church as we have worked to take the gospel into the culture.

God has blessed us since with growth in numbers and in fellowship. Being a part of Evangel Presbytery has been invaluable in adding a focus on pastoral care to our heart for abortion ministry and evangelism. Evangel Presbytery is known for its unity on the issue of baptism and its strong adherence to biblical patriarchy, but it is pastoral care that holds it all together. God gave the church shepherds to care for the souls of their sheep. Pastors must speak the things fitting for sound doctrine and do so with authority. They keep sheep out of ditches, pointing sinners to Christ who is the only one who can heal them. They equip the saints for ministry, leading them out into battle against the world, the devil, and the flesh. It is a good work that must be recovered.

In 2020-21, God had us outgrow the community building and provided a larger place. Two capable men in the congregation, Mark Cox and Aaron Sabie, both completed their training to serve as elders. On April 11th, 2021, Sovereign King Church ordained these two men and formally joined Evangel Presbytery as a particularized church. We are thankful for the work of Evangel Presbytery and are looking forward to working together to proclaim the good news of our Sovereign King, Jesus.

February 2021 Meeting of Evangel Presbytery

The 5th Stated Meeting of Evangel Presbytery met at Trinity Reformed Church in Bloomington, Indiana on Friday, February 19th, 2021 at 10 am. After Moderator Andrew Dionne prayed and called us to order, Pastor Jody Killingsworth and the musicians at TRC opened our service of worship with a hymn and a psalm. Then Pastor Dionne preached to us from 1 Peter 5:1-4, and Pastor Philip Moyer led us in communion.

In his sermon, Pastor Dionne exhorted us, among other things, not to be lazy. Good thing he did, as we had a full day of business ahead of us. We took attendance and then Stated Clerk Lucas Week made a personal motion to strike the 10am start-time from our bylaws, so we could start subsequent meetings as convenient. The motion passed!

After that we discussed a variety of proposed changes to our BCO. Some changes had already been considered and were brought before the presbytery for a vote. For others, the moderator appointed committees to review the proposals and return to presbytery with recommendations.

We had a brief report from the administrative nominating committee, and then we broke for lunch.

Lunch was awesome: two lasagnas, salad, and butterscotch-chip cookies. There were many guests, and the time of fellowship with old friends and new was sweet. If you were one of the excused absences, or you just haven’t joined the Presbytery yet, you missed out.

The next part of the meeting after lunch was full of joy, as we heard from the various churches and church plants about how things were going over the last few months. The theme was: COVID was tough, but God is faithful.

Best of all, we voted to particularize Sovereign King Church in Memphis, Indiana. The particularization service which includes the ordination of two elders will take place soon. Praise the Lord, and best wishes to Pastor Joseph Spurgeon and his flock.

Later, we heard from Jake Mentzel, the Chairman of the Board of New Geneva Academy, which has cooked up a great pastors training program for this Autumn, with five men (and counting) already signed up.

We ended the day with the ordination of Jason Chen who will pastor the Chinese Reformed Church of Bloomington, Indiana. Pastor Mentzel preached:

This was a long time coming, and an occasion of happiness for all. Congratulations, Pastor Chen!

Our next stated meeting will be held on Thursday, June 3, 2021 at Holy Trinity Reformed Church in Camby, Indiana.

Evangel Presbytery: 1 October 2020 at Clearnote Church

Inside Clearnote Church’s sanctuary, Moderator Andrew Dionne and Clerk of Presbytery Lucas Weeks look on as Pastor Max Curell — chair of the Church Planting committee — gives a report on several news works coming into fellowship.

The 4th Stated Meeting of Evangel Presbytery met at Clearnote Church in Indianapolis, Indiana on October 1, 2020 at 10 am with prayer and a call to worship from Moderator Andrew Dionne. After raising our voices together in psalms and hymns, Pastor Alex McNeilly opened the word from Luke 9:46 – 50. Following the Lord’s Supper and benediction, business began around 11 with adoption of the docket and discussion of a modest budget for 2021.

Following the budget, everyone was ready for lunch, which was ample and delicious. Conversation was prevalent and ranged over everything from upcoming overtures to mutual interests in music. The candy bowl was a great ending to lunch and a source of constant edification throughout the afternoon, leading to the unofficial adoption of it as a standing tradition. Our future hosts at Trinity Reformed Church and Reformed Church of the Holy Trinity should take note!

Following lunch, the moderator introduced an overture from Christ Church Cinncinnati and appointed a study committee to consider it and it’s proposed clarification of means of discipline in the BCO. Following other appointments and a brief report from the Shepherding Committee, Pastor Jospeh Bayly — chair of the Candidates and Credentials Committee — took the podium to lead the ordination exam of pastoral candidates Jason Chen and Joe Helt. Questions from the chair and the floor were lively, but both men showed a firm grasp of church history and the sacraments through their responses. The assembly sustained their examinations unanimously before moving to work on calls for them both.

First Presbyterian Church in Jasper, Indiana brought an overture from the congregation to be received into Evangel, having voted to leave the PCA several weeks before. Pastoral candidate Joe Helt has been serving as their pulpit supply for the past year and the overture included a call for him to serve as their pastor. During a statement from the trustees of the church, it was very sweet to see the affection that has already developed between the Helt family and the membership of First Presbyterian.

Following the receiving of First Presbyterian, the assembly further approved the start of a new work in Bloomington, Indiana — a Chinese-speaking church to serve the city’s Chinese population. This new church will be lead by ordinate Jason Chen. Please keep Kernel of Wheat Fellowship in your prayers as their base of ministry has really struggled over the course of 2020.

The moderator wonders how many amendments to the amendment upon the amendment to the motion he’s going to have to sort through.

The moderator steered deliberations through the remaining committee reports and unfinished business efficiently, leading to an early conclusion around 4pm. Elder Brian Bailey was nominated to serve as moderator in 2021 before the assembly adjourned with prayer. Most of the commissioners then squandered their early dismissal by hanging around the sanctuary, foyer, and parking lot to visit until 5:30 – a testament to the kind hospitality of Clearnote Church.

We praise God for a good day of successful work.

Many thanks to photographer Sarah Schmidtt for capturing the events of the day.

February 2020 Presbytery Meeting

Back in February, Evangel Presbytery met in Bloomington, Indiana at Trinity Reformed Church. We had quite a full docket! Here are a few of the highlights.

The day started with a worship service, and pastor Tim Bayly preached. After hearing preaching and celebrating the Lord’s Supper, we went through the regular meeting preliminaries: roll call, introduction and seating of guests and visitors, and the adoption of our previous minutes and current docket.

After the preliminaries were over, we dove in to the substance of our agenda. As the chairman of the Bylaws Committee, pastor Andrew Dionne presented the proposed bylaws to the presbytery. After some discussion of amendments, the bylaws were approved.

The next major order of business came from the Candidates and Credentials Committee. After examination, four men came under care of presbytery, and three went on to preach and undergo licensure exams. All three were approved by the presbytery and are now licensed to preach.

Next up, the presbytery conducted a transfer exam of pastor Andy Halsey and received him into Evangel Presbytery from the Presbyterian Church in America. Rev. Halsey will serve as an Evangelist, working to start a new church in Columbus, IN.

The meeting ended with a brief report from each of our churches—things that are going well, and challenges each are facing. We also heard an update from our Cincinnati and Sellersburg church plants. Finally, we heard exciting news that a new church plant in Evansville is in the works!

Overall, we had a very productive meeting with some sweet fellowship. Praise be to God!

Licensed To Preach

At our recent presbytery meeting on February 20th, Jason Chen, Joe Helt, and Ben Sulser were each examined by Evangel Presbytery and granted a license to preach.

From left to right: Joe Helt, Ben Sulser, Jason Chen

Joe Helt

Joe is from northern Indiana, and he loves the flatland of the north. He met his wife, Sarah, in Warsaw, Indiana, and they were married in 2012. They have four children: Covenant, Amos, Mercy, and Joyful.

Joe pastored for a few years in northern Indiana before getting any formal pastoral training. That experience was good but hard. According to his own testimony: “it taught me that I needed to be trained!” He and Sarah attended some conferences at Trinity Reformed Church in Bloomington a few years back, and they fell in love with the church. In 2017, they moved to Bloomington so that Joe could study with the men at Trinity Reformed Pastors College (formerly Clearnote Pastors College). “It has proved to be one of the best decisions of our lives.”

Joe and Sarah do not have any definite plans for their future, and for now, they are happily serving at Trinity. But they trust that God will make it clear where and when He would have them serve in the future. They are excited for the work of Evangel and her churches.

Jason Chen

Jason is originally from San Francisco, California, and he came to Bloomington in 2005 to study violin performance at the Jacob’s School of Music at Indiana University. After completing his undergraduate, he enrolled in Trinity Reformed Pastors College, graduating in 2014. He married his wife, Chen, in December of 2018. Jason and Chen’s daughter, Jane, was born last October.

Jason is currently leading Kernel of Wheat Fellowship, the Chinese ministry of Trinity Reformed Church. He has been leading this ministry at Trinity Reformed Church since 2014. It is his hope that this ministry will grow into a thriving community of Chinese believers and be used to promote the Gospel to the Chinese community in Bloomington and overseas as students return to their homeland.

Ben Sulser

Ben Sulser grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but he spent 10 years in Tacoma, Washington after graduating high school. The Pastors College at Trinity Reformed Church brought him to Indiana about five years ago. He graduated from the program in 2019. He has enjoyed being involved in Trinity Reformed Church, from writing and recording podcasts with the media ministry to administrating the pastors conference to leading the college and career group. He hopes to serve in pastoral ministry within Evangel Presbytery.

Currently he works as a title searcher. He is husband to the lovely Megan.

Reformed Church Of The Holy Trinity Joins Evangel Presbytery

Guest post by pastor James Brown (Facebook), pastor at Reformed Church of the Holy Trinity in Camby, Indiana.

Reformed Church of the Holy Trinity was constituted on October 13th, 2013. One year later, the church began meeting in the former New Harmony Methodist Church in the middle of a cornfield in rural Morgan County just north of Martinsville, Indiana. Although primitive by today’s standards and outside our desired geographical location, the members of Reformed Church of the Holy Trinity made the old 1900 building their home for the next five years. In hindsight, these “wilderness” years afforded our small congregation to grow in their love and commitments to Christ and His Church relatively undisturbed.

Although the lack of accommodations and isolation was difficult, the biggest dilemma we faced was our lack of accountability and fellowship in a communion of churches. Most of our members had previously been associated with the Southern Baptist Convention, yet we knew there was no future for us there. But where could we go? The denominations were too liberal on primary issues and many associations too schismatic on secondary issues.

In October of 2015, we were introduced to the vision of what would become Evangel Presbytery. As soon as the vision became a reality in late 2018, we expressed our desire to be associated with this glorious work that was not only defending Reformed confessionalism of the past but also blazing the trail for contemporary confessionalism against present assaults. In addition to these important issues, another topic of urgency to us was freedom on baptism in relation to time and mode. You can read Evangel Presbytery’s position on baptism in chapter 16 of their Book of Church Order. You may also be interested in Reformed Church of the Holy Trinity’s explanation for joining a Presbytery as a Baptist church.

Finally, on October 3rd, 2019, we were graciously received into membership with Evangel Presbytery. We thank God for these churches and men who have been so patient and supportive during this process. It is a high honor to be included in this brotherhood.

About the same time we were admitted into Evangel Presbytery, we received a request to help another church in our area through a process of dissolution. In December of 2019, the dissolving church voted to transfer all their assets to Reformed Church of the Holy Trinity. On January 5th, 2020, we moved into our new location at 7542 East Landersdale Road in Camby, Indiana. During this process, the few remaining members of the dissolving church were transferred and received into the communion and care of Reformed Church of the Holy Trinity.

In the eyes of many, these have been the days of small things, but from where we stand it is glorious. God has been faithful to His remnant in a day of decay. May we be found faithful in the ministry we have been entrusted.

Trinity Presbyterian Church Joins Evangel Presbytery

Guest post by Andrew Dionne, senior pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina. (Facebook, Twitter)

Trinity Presbyterian Church initially met on the north side of Spartanburg, SC in the early 1970s. In August 1972, Walnut Grove Presbyterian Church merged with Trinity Presbyterian Church. Her denominational home became the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES). On the first Sunday of September 1978, Trinity dedicated its present building on the west side of Spartanburg County. In August of 1982, Trinity was received into the Presbyterian Church in American (PCA) when the PCA officially “joined and received” the RPCES.

On May 5, 2019, after several trying years in Calvary Presbytery of the PCA, Trinity voted to leave the denomination and affiliate with Evangel Presbytery. In congregational meetings leading up to our departure from the PCA, the case for leaving the denomination was outlined, argued, and ultimately affirmed by the congregation. The PCA, it was argued, was significantly and irreparably compromised both in doctrine and practice.

Concerning the doctrinal degeneration of the PCA, there was widespread affirmation of the social gospel and a sophisticated embracing of the “celibate gay Christian” movement. Concerning the practical drift of the PCA, the polity of the PCA became more and more hierarchical, going against the basic principles of Presbyterianism. Over the course of her history, the PCA had increasingly resisted the practice of church discipline. That rejection of one of the three marks of the church was evident in every level of the courts of the church (sessions, presbyteries, and general assembly). Lest you think we are lobbing stones without having had any skin in the game, the details of our battle within the PCA against liberalism is documented on Warhorn Media’s website.

Perhaps the most discouraging element of our final days in the PCA was the unwillingness of the conservatives in the denomination to fight those pastors and elders who were promoting the sin of effeminacy. When the conservatives waved the white flag and determined that the differences they had with men who rejected Scripture were merely “differing perspectives” of “teammates and friends,” the end of our affiliation with the PCA became a positive necessity.

It is with joy that Trinity Presbyterian Church has affiliated with Evangel Presbytery. Our hope and prayer is that Evangel Presbytery will serve as a simple source of accountability and encouragement. We have no desire to see Evangel become a national denomination with influence. We’ve already seen how that desire corrupts men and institutions. May God bless our efforts.

What’s the story behind Evangel Presbytery?

Another Protestant denomination?

That’s a common question we get from those looking on from the outside and wanting to know more about Evangel, and it’s not a bad question. After all, over two-thirds of the adults in the United States identify as Christians, and slightly less than half identify as Protestant. That many Protestants – roughly 150 million – must represent a huge number of churches. Surely our churches can find a denomination or association worth affiliating with, right?

Well, it’s complicated. If you’re reading these words, you probably recognize that the United States has been turning away from its Protestant roots for many generations now. Of those 150 million who identify as Christian, many millions deny basic Christian truths like, “Jesus is God” or “the Bible is the Word of God.”

Narrowing things down a bit further, roughly a quarter of the United States adult population are Evangelical Protestants. And then, when you narrow it down to Evangelical Protestant churches that are either reformed or presbyterian, that percentage shrinks to around 1% of the adult population, or roughly three million people.1

Three million people is still a lot of people, and, sadly, they do represent a large number of different denominations and associations that have a long history of division. And so the question remains: why another denomination?

If you take the time to read our commitments page (and I hope you do), you’ll see that we are Westminsterian in our theology – which is to say, reformed and evangelical – and presbyterian in polity. This is pretty standard stuff in our theological neck of the woods, and if we had left it at that, our churches may very well have been able to join another denomination. That leads us to what sets us apart…

So do you baptize babies or not?

Normally, particular churches and denominations with our same theological commitments declare themselves to hold to either the credo-baptist or the paedo-baptist position on baptism. That is to say, some of them think it’s good and proper to baptize the infants of Christian parents (such as the Presbyterian Church in America or the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church), while others believe that a person should be baptized when he can make a personal and credible profession of faith (such as the Southern Baptist Convention). In either kind of church, leniency on this point is sometimes permitted for church membership but never, or very rarely, for church officers. But as we specify in our BCO, churches who join Evangel Presbytery may declare in their bylaws that their officers “must be exclusively credo-baptist, exclusively paedobaptist, or may be comprised of both.”

So while there have been separate credo-baptist and paedo-baptist churches for centuries, there are few examples in church history of churches who accept both positions simultaneously, and very few denominations today who do so. Our congregations have many friends on both sides of the debate, but there simply weren’t very many willing to officially associate with us given our long-standing commitment to freedom on the time and mode of baptism. We did carefully consider the few that exist, but decided that our differences in other areas – whether cultural or theological – were too significant to set aside. And so here we are.

Aren’t you just being schismatic?

In a word, no.

Evangel Presbytery grew organically out of the brotherhood of like-minded churches. We share theological commitments and cultural commitments, and we love one another. We’re committed to the three marks of the church: pure preaching of the Word, the proper administration of the sacraments, and the conscientious exercise of church discipline. What’s schismatic about that?

On top of that, we feel that our open-handed position on baptism is good for our churches and a challenge to long-standing factions in the reformed church which grieve the Lord. That’s the very opposite of being schismatic!

In future posts, we hope to write more about how each of our churches were drawn to form a new presbytery. Even as we build, we are delighted to see God bless other Reformed and Evangelical denominations. The fields are white for the harvest.